Using narratives to develop standards for leaders: Applying an innovative approach in Western Australia

Helen Wildy, Coral Pepper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dissatisfaction with long lists of duties as substitutes for standards led to the innovative application of narratives as an alternative approach to the generation and use of standards for school leaders. This paper describes research conducted over nearly a decade in collaboration with the state education authority in Western Australia, professional associations and several hundred individual school principals. The research established that the quality of performance of school leaders is linked to personal attributes that shape the way leaders act, rather than to actions or duties. The personal attributes (fair, decisive, supportive, collaborative, flexible, tactful, innovative and persistent) are interrelated in complex ways often between conflicting demands such as decisiveness and collaboration, or tactfulness and persistence. Accomplished performance is characterized, not by displaying more of an attribute, but by balancing competing demands in particular contexts. Narrative accounts of leader performance can be rated and arrayed on scales showing variation in performance of the attributes. This paper includes examples of narratives, how they are developed, their ratings, and how they are used to illustrate this variation as levels, that is, standards of performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-141
JournalEducation Research and Perspectives
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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